Operation St. Peter's
|Operation St. Peter's|
Original Italian theatrical poster
|Directed by||Lucio Fulci|
|Written by||Adriano Bolzoni
Ennio De Concini
Edward G. Robinson
|Music by||Ward Swingle|
|29 December 1967|
Operazione San Pietro (internationally released as Operation St. Peter's) is a 1967 Italian comedy film directed by Lucio Fulci. Beginning with the title, the film consists in a sort of unofficial sequel of Operazione San Gennaro, a successful heist-comedy film that Dino Risi had filmed the previous year.
The film was co-produced by France, where it was released as Au diable les anges, and West Germany, where is known as Die Abenteuer des Kardinal Braun.
Napoleon (Lando Buzzanca) is a small-time crook with big ideas. In prison in Naples where he is serving time for a robbery charge, he is sprung by accident when a foppish villain calling himself the Baron (Pinuccio Ardia) and his two "numb-skull" cohorts, Agonia (Ugo Fangareggi) and the Captain (Dante Maggio), tunnel under his cell, having lost their way to an expected bank vault. Napoleon escapes with his rescuers through the tunnel, and upon arrival on the outside of the prison, he discovers that the three are flat broke, despite the well-dressed appearance of the Baron. Napoleon swiftly asserts himself as leader of the group by pretending to be a master criminal and suggests that they move to Rome for richer pickings. The four of them are forced to travel to Rome in the back of a cattle truck since they do not have a car.
On the outskirts of Rome, the gang falls in with a seedy crook and gigolo who called himself Il Cajella (Jean-Claude Brialy), who owns a dilapidated used-car lot which Napoleon elects as his gang's hide-out and Cajella as their co-conspirator/protector. At first, Napoleon's renewed criminal activates are unambitious and he is soon caught sealing a woman's purse at a local shopping center. Before the security guards can call the police, Marisa (Christine Barclay) the woman whose purse he'd stolen comes, forward the announces that she knows him and saves him from arrest. Marisa insists on calling Napoleon "Filiberto", as it turns out merely because he resembles her dead husband.
Meanwhile, Cajella encounters the beautiful Samantha (Uta Levka) while cruising for trade at a singles bar mainly populated by wealthy older women. Cajella is unaware that Samantha belongs to a big American criminal named Joe Ventura (Edward G. Robinson). Elsewhere, the increasingly starved gang of crooks attempt to raise money to buy food by conning American tourists by offering them a private view of Michaelangelo's famous Pieta which is currently shielded from dust by a huge curtain during renovations. When a Vatican employee leaves a forklift truck unattended, Napoleon sees away to pull off a job he believes could place him amongst the giants of crime. Napoleon tells the Baron that he will steal the famous statue of the Madonna the Christ from the Vatican. This huge edifice, some 15 feet high and weighing several tons, can be sold a lot of money. To the horror and admiration of his cohorts, Napoleon swathes the statue in a blanket and brazenly carries it on the forklift truck out into the streets of Rome.
Back at their hideout, the hungry crooks are jubilant, resolving to sell the priceless stature, for a meager some of 30 million lira. But Cajella lets it slip to Samantha that they have the Pieta. Joe Ventura overhears this and forces Cajella to betray his friends by revealing the statues location.
Meanwhile, Napoleon brings Marisa to the hide-out so he can try to seduce her, until he accidentally dislodges the sheet to reveal the Pieta. Marisa, a strict Catholic, falls on her knees in prayer and shames Napoleon into doing likewise. She drags him to a nearby church to confess his crimes. Afterwards, she insists that the statue be returned. Napoleon concedes but claims to the Vatican religious authorities that he only found the statue. Napoleon and Marisa lead the Vatican officials to the gangs hide-out. However, Ventura and his henchmen have arrived at the hide-out first and have bribed the Baron and his group with food, and made off with the statue themselves. Wanted posters depicting Ventura and Cajella are distributed throughout Italy.
Ventura and his men decide to head to Sicily, the statue in tow in a caravan, with the Vatican police and diverse cardinals, priests, and monks in hot pursuit. Ventura is forced to stop for a small village parade passing by dramatizing the Stations of the Cross. Then the actor playing Jesus Christ spots Cajella and climbs down from cross to alert the centurions before grabbing a child's bicycle and chasing off after them. Amongst all this, Napoleon, Marisa, the Baron, the Captain and Agonia have teamed up with Cardinal Braun (Heinz Ruhman), a Vatican official with particular interest in the thieves, and who drives like a maniac after the fleeing criminals. Braun drives off a pier and crashes the car on board Ventura's boat just as it sets off for Sicily with the statue. To everyones surprise, Ventura hands his gun to Braun for it is revealed that Ventura and Braun were old friends in the Mafia before Braun saw the light. As the boat sails away with both gangs on board, Samantha and Cajella are left behind on the pier. Samantha escapes on water skies and Cajella tries to swim after her to escape from a group of angry female clients of his waiting on the pier.
- Lando Buzzanca: Napoleone
- Jean-Claude Brialy: Cajella
- Edward G. Robinson: Joe Ventura
- Heinz Rühmann: Cardinal Erik Braun
- Christine Barclay: Marisa
- Antonella Della Porta: Cesira
- Herbert Fux: Targout
- Wolfgang Kieling: Poulain
- Ugo Fangareggi: Agonia
- Uta Levka: Samantha
- Dante Maggio: The Captain
- Carlo Pisacane: Epimeno
- Cesare Biarese. Commedia all'italiana: parlano i protagonisti. Gangemi, 1985.
- Masolino D'Amico. La commedia all'italiana. Il Saggiatore, 2008.
- Hans-Michael Bock, Tim Bergfelder. The concise Cinegraph. Berghahn Books, 2009. p. 242.